tv The Rachel Maddow Show MSNBC December 30, 2019 9:00pm-10:00pm PST
>> biggest hope for this year? >> i think the cynical part of me is that we get through it. biggest hope is obviously at the end of it donald trump is no longer the president. >> i think you speak for many when you say that. you channel the voice of many, jelani cobb, alexi mccammond, thank you both for being with me. happy new year. that is "all in" for this evening. "the rachel maddow show" starts right now. good evening. thanks for joining us this hour. happy to have you with us. so we've been on the road. we sent producers across the country to pull together a really important story tonight about something that is happening right now with historic implications. the story tonight begins with this guy. this is harry blackmun. he was from minnesota, a conservative lawyer, a judge first appointed to the bench by dwight eisenhower. he became richard negatives's second appointment to the united states supreme court. but blackmun was not nixon's first choice for the job.
nixon's first two picks had pro-segregation records that got unearthed or dissected during the confirmation process. both were ultimately rejected by the senate which was an embarrassing blow for nixon. so for his third try nixon chose harry blackmun because blackmun was seen so uncontroversial that he would be hard for anybody to vote against. >> judge blackmun made a good first impression on the senators who will help decide his fate, and barring the unexpected his nomination should sail through. thus far no one has even asked to testify against him. but the unexpected already has occurred twice. so most senators still are not committing themselves. >> they find a super uncontroversial guy strategy worked to that nomination. harry blackmun's nomination to the court was unanimously approved by the senate. on june 9th, 1970 he was sworn in to the court. and what ironically for a guy who was chosen specifically
because he was seen as the most middle of the road, nonoffensive, guaranteed noncontroversial guy to stick in that spot. justice blackmun would go on just a couple of years later to write one of the most controversial u.s. supreme court opinions ever. >> the court said in a 7-2 decision that in the first three months of pregnancy, only the woman and her physician may decide whether she may have an abortion. in the second three months, all the state may do is regulate abortion procedures. and only in the final three months of pregnancy can the state forbid abortion. all 50 states are effective, whatever their laws. >> it wasn't a close decision. it was decided by a big majority, right? 7-2. but it was harry blackmun who wrote the opinion for the seven-member majority, and for that reason harry blackmun became the sort of face of that ruling, the face of roe v. wade. five years after his death, justice blackmun's papers were
released, and that's when we the public learned that harry blackmun saved everything, everything in that 1,500-plus boxes of documents he donated to the library of congress, you can find everything from hotel receipts to tennis scores to dance cards from childhood, private notes between the justices on the supreme court. and it turns out when you are the guy who wrote the roe v. wade decision, and you're also a guy who keeps everything, that means you're a guy who has held on to a pile of hate mail and death wishes and threats. ten years after roe in 1983, according to reporting by the associated press, the supreme court had received 45,000 letters about roe v. wade, most of them addressed to justice blackmun. justice blackmun said at the time, quote, we still receive eight, nine, ten letters a day. some are very supportive, very lovely messages, but most are very abusive. the more recent ones are as abusive as the initial ones.
ignoring the advice of fellow justices against reading such mail, justice blackmun says i want to know what the people who wrote are thinking. here what's they were thinking, quote, they have called him a murderer, a butcher, even pontius pilate. they have compared him to the nazi overseers of genocide. in 1985, a bullet from a .9 millimeter pistol was shot through justice blackmun's apartment window and into his living room, showering glass on to his wife, who happened to be in the room. it was never determined if that bullet was directly targeting justice blackmun or if it might have been a stray shot, just a coincidence. but the shot through the window came on the heels of a series of death threats. justice blackmun's daughter has said he always traveled with security after that. >> blackmun, who used to go alone on walks has been under protection since receiving a letter last fall and another last week threatening him with death. anti-abortion demonstrators have singled out blackmun for his
authorship of the court's 1973 decision decriminalizing abortion. >> that's how the modern-day abortion wars have been fought in this country from day one, from the roe v. wade decision onward. with violence and the threat of violence always hanging in the air. when the supreme court cleared the way for legal abortion in every state, clinics sprang up all over the country to accommodate women who were coming out of the shadows to access this now legally protected procedure. >> okay, an appointment for an abortion. >> as quickly as clinics opened their doors, organized opponents gathered, trying to shut them down. >> after the supreme court legalized abortion, an abortion clinic opened in st. louis. anti-abortion groups have been picketing ever since. they also got the legislature to throw up various roadblocks to abortion. >> by the 1980s and '90s, this
is what it was like to be an abortion provider in america. >> already many have bulletproof glass, and across the country, there are more than 30,000 escorts who have to use cloak and dagger measures to protect doctors, clients, and themselves. >> a wave of clinic bombings that peaked in the 1980s was followed by a series of assassinations in the 1990s. >> an abortion facility was hit by a bomb blast. >> bomb blasts at three abortion clinics. >> a propane gas bomb exploded last night in the washington office of the national abortion federation. so far this year, 28 abortion clinics and information centers have been bombed or set afire. >> dr. david gunn was shot getting out of his car. as he came to work as a pensacola portion clinic. >> the doctor, who performs third trimester abortions had been shot twice outside his clinic. >> the gunman shot four people before escaping here. one woman, a clinic worker, died at the scene. >> dr. john britton and james barrett were cut down with
shotgun blasts. >> barnett slepian, an amherst new york doctor well-known to anti-abortion protesters was shot dead by a sniper last night while at home with his wife and four children. >> you could not find an abortion provider in the '80s and '90s who would say they felt immune from the threat of terroristic violence. everyone involved in abortion was vulnerable. but perhaps no one was targeted as relentlessly as one specific doctor in wichita, kansas, dr. george tiller. >> for two months, anti-abortion protesters laid siege to clinics in wichita, kansas. but their main target was not the clinic. it was a doctor, dr. george tiller. they called him tiller the killer. tiller still performs abortions, but hundreds of other doctors have stopped because of scenes like this and this. >> anti-abortion forces targeted dr. tiller in every way imaginable.
in 1986, his clinic was bombed. tiller hung a sign outside the bombed-out building that said hell no, we won't go. he reopened the next day at a secret location. >> we have had a major $100,000 bombing here in our organization, and one day later, we're in business. >> in 1991, the radical anti-abortion group operation rescue called on thousands of anti-abortion activists from across the country to converge on wichita, to physically shut down george tiller's clinic. >> wichita is not used to guerrilla tactics, but it's learning. people here have seen weeks of militant anti-abortion protests, barricading clinics, harassing patients, using children as human shields. >> eventually, the radical fringe of the anti-abortion movement turned to a chilling new tactic to isolate and target doctors. wanted posters that cast abortion doctors as murderers
and gave anyone who might wish them harm literal instructions on how to find those doctors. there was a wanted poster targeting dr. david gunn before he was murdered. it showed his photo, the make and model and license plate number on his car. it showed the addresses of each of his offices. there was a wanted poster targeting dr. john britton before he was murdered. the photo even shows him wearing a bulletproof vest. it lists information about his car and includes his home address. here is a wanted poster of dr. george tiller that we believe circulated in the early '90s. it compares him to adolf hitler. it shows his photo, the city where he lives, and his exact office address. on august 19th, 1993, an anti-abortion activist named shelley shannon walked up to dr. george tiller at the parking lot of the address on that poster and she shot him. >> for the second time this year, an abortion doctor has been shot, apparently by an
anti-abortion activist. this time the doctor survived the attack. >> dr. tiller was taken to the hospital and treated. he returned to his clinic to work the next day. >> you know, i'm just like my patients, you know. last night i got shot and i was scared, but there was somebody there to take care of me. >> shelley shannon shooting him did not stop dr. george tiller. >> what did you want to do when you shot him? >> stop him from killing babies. >> but getting caught and convicted and sentenced and thrown in prison did not stop shelley shannon from believing that she did the right thing, and that she was and could continue to be an important part of a movement that embraces violence as a means to end abortion in america. there is a pro-violence wing of the anti-abortion movement. these people see themselves as soldiers in an actual war. they call themselves the army of god. assassinating abortion doctors
in their view is justifiable homicide. going to jail for murdering an abortion doctor is seen as a noble sacrifice. before she shot dr. tiller, shelley shannon wrote warm approving letters to the man who killed dr. gunn in florida. she wrote to him in jail as he awaited trial. when she went on to commit her own act of violence, that began the next chapter of her life as a hero soldier in the army of god. her prison term would stop her from personally carrying out any further violence, but it couldn't stop her from inspiring the next would-be assassin. meanwhile, in wichita, dr. tiller kept on with his work. >> you simply cannot retreat when you're committed. there is no way that we are going to be forced out of this particular moral, correct, legal health care experience.
>> outside of the army of god manifestos from dark corners of the internet, some of the most radical language used against george tiller was piped into millions of homes on a regular basis. thanks to a television host on the fox news channel. >> killing babies in america. that's a subject of this evening's talking points memo. for $5,000, tiller the baby killer as some call him will perform a late-term abortion for just about any reasons. this man, dr. george tiller, known as tiller the baby killer is performing late-term abortions without defining the specific medical reasons why. >> in 2002, an anti-abortion state legislator named phil kline was elected attorney general for the state of kansas. >> i want to first tell you who does not endorse attorney general kline? abortionist dr. george tiller does not endorse phil kline. >> boo! >> in 2011, a producer from this show asked for his thoughts on abortion.
>> mr. kline, do you yourself believe that abortion should be made illegal? >> do i myself? yes. oh, one other comment about that. i'm also anti-murder, and i put a lot of murderers away too. i follow the law. >> almost immediately upon taking office as kansas state attorney general, phil kline started a secret investigation into george tiller. he used subpoena power to get dozens of patient medical records. in defines of in defyians ofiance of a judge'r keeping the patients' identity secret, kline's staff staked out dr. tiller's parking lot. they followed patients. they took down license plate numbers. they subpoenaed a nearby hotel for records that helped them unredact these patients' medical records to get the patients'
names. all of this was in pursuit of something to use against george tiller, something to charge him with. but it also sent a message to women and girls in kansas. if you try to get an abortion here, you could be the subject of an investigation by the state attorney general. this guy will get his hands on your personal medical records, all of them. kline ultimately got his license to practice law yanked by the state of kansas for misconduct in his pursuit of dr. tiller. all of his efforts against tiller ultimately yielded a misdemeanor case brought by kline's successor over how tiller referred patients for a state-mandated second opinion in certain abortions. on march 27th, 2009, following years of investigations, after four days of testimony, it took jurors all of 45 minutes to clear george tiller of all charges. but two months later, dr. tiller was dead. tiller's murderer had been sitting in that courtroom, watching that trial, watching the justice system exonerate george tiller. you can see him here, sitting next to the president of operation rescue.
two months later he would walk into the church george tiller attended. he walked in on a sunday morning. he held up a gun to tiller's head and he executed him at point-blank range. according to the killer, scott roeder, he had been thinking about killing george tiller for years, but it was the result of that trial, george tiller's acquittal of all those misdemeanor charges that motivated him to actually go through with it, to actually do it. >> it seemed like that was the last attempt by the state of kansas to find if there was anything at all going on illegally in george tiller's clinic, and it seemed as though that was the last step, and now he was acquitted, now not guilty. >> did you decide it was incumbent upon you to do something? >> there was nothing being done, and the legal process had been exhausted. and these babies were dying
every day, and i felt that if someone did not do something, he was going to continue aborting children. and so i felt that i needed to act and quickly for those children. >> scott roeder did not get to this point of radicalization overnight. according to his ex-wife, he'd become involved in the anti-abortion movement in the 1990s. he protested at clinics, including dr. tiller's. he tried to superglue the locks shut on another clinic. he also visited shelley shannon in prison. >> get down on your knees! >> on the day he murdered dr. tiller, when he was arrested that day after the shooting, a scrap of paper was found in his getaway car. on that scrap of paper was a phone number of a top operation rescue official.
he learned about dr. tiller's security protocols from operation rescue. scott roeder, the murderer of dr. george tiller was not a lone wolf. he was the product of a violent radical anti-abortion network. >> look, when i was in the pro-life movement, we knew who was gluing doors shut. we knew who was vandalizing property. we knew if people had throne firebombs. we knew of course people who were in jail. most of these pro-life groups have a group of people always on the fringe who are hanging around, nor extreme than others who they know have been involved in acts of vandalism, petty theft. maybe a fire bombing, this or that. it's time to blow the whistle on these guys. had that happened with scott roeder, dr. tiller would not have been murdered. >> when he was tried for the murder of dr. tiller, it took a jury all of 37 minutes to decide that they would convict scott roeder. and with that, the trial was over. the national media attention faded.
and wichita was left to grapple with the aftermath of this act of terrorism. without george tiller, there was no abortion provider left in this city. and that might have been it, but tiller's friends and family and supporters decided that they would do what they had seen george tiller do time and again. they would overcome the fear and the intimidation and the violence and come back. kplrz kplr let's be honest, every insurance company says they can save you these. in fact, if you had a dollar for every time they said it, you'd have a lot of dollars. which makes it hard to believe, especially coming from a talking lizard. pip, pip, cheerio! look, all i, dennis quaid, know is that esurance is built to save you dollars without skimping on service. and when they save, you save.
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george tiller's father was also a doctor, a prominent wichita family practice doctor. in 1970, tiller's father, along with his mother, his sister and his brother-in-law were all killed in a plane crash. after that crash, george tiller left the navy to head back to wichita where he and his wife adopted his infant nephew and where he intended to wind down and eventually close up his father's practice in wichita. but then something happened. patients started asking the younger dr. tiller if he was going to take care of women the way his father had done. this was before roe v. wade. abortion at the time was illegal in kansas. >> i was horrified because the only thing worse than a woman
that would request an abortion was the physician that would do the abortion. so i was outraged. why would these nice people that my dad had been provided quality health care for over an extended period of time say that he was a scumbag type physician? >> tiller had thought that his father had done one or two abortions over the course of his career, but after he took over his father's family practice, he learned it was much more than one or two. >> here's what happened. in 1945, '46 or '47, a young woman for whom dad had already delivered two babies came to him pregnant again right away. and she said something to the effect that i can't take it. can you help me? and those are the two common denominators. that is apparently the way you ask for an abortion from your regular doctor before abortion was legal. dad said no.
by the time the baby gets here, everything will be all right. she went out, had a non health care abortion, came back ten days to two weeks later and died. i don't know how many abortions he did, but the women in my father's practice for whom he did abortions educated me and taught me. abortion is a matter of survival for women. >> and so george tiller stayed in wichita in his father's practice in the same building. he expanded it. he rebuilt it after it was bombed in the 1980s. in the 1990s, the supreme court decision planned parenthood v casey paved the way for hospital states hostile to abortion rights to push through own us in new restrictions targeting abortion clinics. in response tiller added a new wing to the clinic with massive operating rooms designed to meet the specification of an
ambulatory surgerial ambulatory surgical center even though most abortions can be done safely in a doctor's office. after 30 years from more than everything from vandalism to blockades to threats and violence to the full force of the state government being leveraged against him, george tiller was finally silenced when scott roeder shot him in the head on may 31st, 2009. nine days later, tiller's family announced that they would not reopen the clinic. dr. tiller was the city's only abortion provider. so his death ended abortion access in wichita, and that had a real practical and immediate effect on all the women who had come to rely on tiller and this particular clinic for this kind of care. anti-abortion forces in wichita were adamant about keeping the clinic closed in the wake of tiller's murder, keeping wichita abortion-free. late in 2010, more than a year after tiller's death, and more than a year after the clinic had closed, the associated press reported that two doctors in kansas were training to become
abortion providers. those doctors' names were leaked to the a.p. by the anti-abortion movement, and the a.p. decided to print their names. and the threats and intimidation and harassment began immediately. one of those two doctors was dr. mila means. she chose to share her story with us, among others after she was outed by the a.p. her landlord sued her to stop her from adding abortion service to her primary care practice. he threatened to kick her out, to end her office lease if she did any abortions at her medical practice. dr. means was picketed at her home and at her office. even a perspective location she was considering to be relocating to. those were targeted too. anti-abortion activists distributed a wanted-style flyer with her photo and exact address, calling her a murderer and encouraging people to confront her at her office and at her home. she got a letter warning her that some day somebody was going to put a bomb under her car.
so mila means and another doctor who were trying to bring abortion back as a medical service to wichita after the murder of dr. tiller ended it, they weren't successful. the intimidation and threats and harassment worked as intended and wichita remained without a provider. but then came julie burkhart. julie burkhart had worked for dr. tiller for years. and up until his murder on legislative policy and as the clinic's spokesperson. she like everyone in dr. tiller's orbit was devastated by his murder, angry at what it meant for her city. she was also quietly determined to bring abortion back to wichita. >> women here need to be able to have access to ob/gyn care that includes abortion care. why living in this part of the country should women be denied those services? the vast majority of the people who i work with here, we're from this part of the country.
so, you know, this is our -- our place as well. i think it says a lot for our nation that we are not going to tolerate these extremists, and we will ensure that women have rights, no matter where we live. >> in 2012, three years after dr. tiller was assassinated, julie burkhart bought tiller's old clinic. and right away the network of anti-abortion activists who had just successfully fought back those two doctors who had been trying to reinstate abortion access in wichita, right away when julie bought tiller's clinic, they came for her. they tried twice to get the land the clinic sits on rezoned so a medical facility couldn't operate there. they held protests outside her house. and of course they distributed wanted-style posters with her photo and her personal information. >> is this scary to you, to have this distributed and have your home address and your picture?
>> well, it's something that i take very seriously. we communicate regularly with law enforcement. so it's something that we take very seriously, but it will not deter us. >> it will not deter us. coming up next, this is what it looks like when your job makes you the target for a whole radical movement of people who are bent on stopping you, who see this as a war and you as their enemy. >> i remember when dr. tiller was assassinated. i was in my first year of medical school. i was in a women's health elective actually when i found out, and i don't know if that just planted a seed in my head, but i will always remember that moment, and i come here now as an abortion provider, and i see my patients who have been cared for in the past by dr. tiller. i see nurses and volunteers and so many people know him. and it's inspiring.
but it's also scary. i know -- i think about it all the time. especially when i'm sort of out and about. i'm flying or i'm pulling into clinic or i'm checking into hotel. i don't want to tell my uber driver what i'm doing here. your orders are to deliver a message calling off tomorrow's attack. if you fail, it will be a massacre. we need to keep moving. come on! instead of using aloe, or baby wipes, or powders, try the cooling, soothing relief or preparation h, because your derriere deserves expert care. preparation h. get comfortable with it. and mine super soft? yes! with the sleep number 360 smart bed, on sale now, you can both adjust your comfort with your sleep number setting. can it help keep me asleep?
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in january 2013, julie burkhart was camped out at the site of george tiller's shuttered clinic, surrounded by contractors and a crew of lawyers and activist intent on bringing abortion access back to wichita. now six years later, they've accomplished that, and then some. when she set out to reopen it, julie burkhart was not sure anyone would want to come to this clinic again. the place that for decades had been the epicenter of america's often violent abortion wars. but like george tiller had always said, women need
abortions and people did come to the clinic. in fact, so many people came that three years after she got dr. tiller's clinic back up and running again in wichita, julie opened another clinic three hours south in oklahoma city. it was a fight to get each clinic open. most days julie says it still feels like a fight to keep them open. >> between these two states, you know, we have -- we have things coming at us all the time. whether it's protesters, what the state legislatures want the do, what we have going on, you know, running through the judiciary. there might be patient issues, funding issues, physician recruitment issues. people still don't want to necessarily come to wichita. people still ten years after dr.
tiller's assassination still view wichita as being this very violent, volatile community. and i get that. but it makes it difficult for us in terms of recruiting doctors. i still don't have any physicians who live in wichita or live in oklahoma city. so all these years later, we still fly people in. >> all these years later, we still fly people in. she has to fly doctors in to wichita and oklahoma city every week to see patients. angela marchin is one of those doctors. >> i'm from the midwest, so i had thoughts of moving back to the midwest. i don't feel that it's safe for me to go -- to live in a place where i would constantly be under threat of violence or harm. >> so you don't -- you wouldn't feel safe living in wichita and working here? >> no. >> this setup, where clinics do not have in-town doctors, this
is very common in the states where abortion access is already most vulnerable. in at least half a dozen republican-led states where there are very few or just one remaining clinic, the atmosphere is seen as so hostile to abortion providers, that clinics are not able to find any local doctors who will do the job. just like julie is doing, they fly doctors in from other states. and that makes those clinics even more vulnerable to getting shut down by the very creative and aggressive anti-abortion forces working out of various republican-controlled state legislatures. there is a whole class of laws known as trap laws, t-r-a-p, targeted regulations against abortion providers. these t.r. a.p. laws are increasingly baroque, deliberatery own ruts regulations that are designed for one purse, to shut down for one purpose, to shut down abortion clinics, because clinics aren't supposed to be
able to comply with these requirements. one of the more in fashion trap laws of the last several years is a rule requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital wherever they're practicing. there is no medical reason for this. abortion is a relatively safe, low-risk procedure that in most cases can be done in a doctor's office. complications that require hospitalization are very rare, and even if those very rare cases, the doctor who performs the procedure doesn't need admitting privileges to send a patient to the hospital. in a place like wichita or oklahoma city where the doctors do not live in the states where they do abortion, it's impossible for them to get admitting privileges at a local hospital. but that's of course the point. the point is not that doctors should be able to get those privileges. the point of these laws is that doctor won't get them. and so that can be used as an excuse to legally ban that doctor from performing abortions or to shut down the clinics where they would have done so. we've seen this play out. in texas, in 2013, the republican state government
there passed an admitting privileges t.r.a.p. law. as a result, half the clinics in that state were forced to shut down. three years later, the supreme court threw out that t.r.a.p. law in texas. in a 5-3 decision, they ruled that it did nothing to protect women's health, but it did put a substantial burden on women's ability to access abortion. so is that law was overturned. since then, though, president trump has made two new appointments to the u.s. supreme court, and now there is a big flashing red light warning sign that the new conservative majority supreme court wants to take another look at this particular brand of t.r.a.p. the court has now taken up a virtually identical t.r.a.p. law to the texas one they threw out. this one's from louisiana. the case is set to be decided by the supreme court in june. the expectation is that this newly constituted court will
change course on that t.r.a.p. law. the expectation is that they're going to say that that t.r.pa.p. okay now, even if the result is the immediate wholesale shut down of clinics. so when julie burkhart says she feels like there is opposition coming at her all the time, this is part of what she means. first anti-abortion threats and terrorism and violence have made her city an unsafe place for local doctors to practice abortion. so her workaround is flying doctors in from out of state. but now the new conservative majority on the supreme court looks poised to use that very fact that she can't get local doctors at her clinics as a reason to shut her down, to end abortion in wichita again. more ahead tonight in this special report. stay with us. more than fifty seven thousand pets supported. over one hundred national parks protected. over two million meals provided. through the subaru share the love event, subaru will have proudly donated over one hundred seventy million dollars to national and hometown charities over twelve years. (shelter attendant) thank you. (grandfather) thank you.
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if you listen to the political it sounds like we have a failed society. but nothing could be further from the truth. americans are compassionate and hardworking. we aren't failing. our politicians are failing. that's why i'm running for president. to end the corporate takeover of the government. and give more power to the american people. that's how we'll win healthcare, fair wages, and clean air and water as a right.
i'm tom steyer and i approve this message. hours are 8:00 to 5:00 most days. some days are slower than others. that's about where carl swinney's desk job stopped being a normal desk job. while he does have a desk, his desk sits opposite a metal detector, and he wears a gun on his hip. carl swinney works for julie burkhart at the trust women clinic in wichita, kansas. he is the facilities coordinator there which means he is in charge of keeping the staff at that clinic safe, as well as the patients who go there for health care. carl worked for dr. tiller's clinic too. he was the security guard at dr. tiller's clinic up until the day tiller was shot at his church. carl remembers seeing the man who killed his boss. he had come by the clinic when dr. tiller worked there. >> you'd seen scott roeder here.
>> i'd seen him, yeah. what got me is what he said in court, or so i heard it. he was asked why he didn't try to shoot him here instead of in church, and he said, well, the guard had a gun. i thought, i wonder why. >> these days mr. swinney still has his gun. he mans the lobby at the clinic. he signs in the patients. he keeps an eye on the protesters, making sure they don't get too close. there are fewer protesters than there were in the tiller days, but they can still get aggressive sometimes. they stand in the parking lot. they drive by the entrance back and forth, back and forth. the threat they pose still feels like a very live one. because it's hard to tell who is just a guy with a sign and who could be the next scott roeder. carl says he keeps an eye out
for what he calls the problem people. >> in kansas today, a woman who shot a doctor who performs abortions was sentenced to 11 years in prison. rochelle shannon was convicted in march of attempted murder in last summer's attack on dr. george tiller. >> rochelle "shelley" shannon went to prison for trying to murder dr. tiller. a federal judge called her a terrorist and said she was even a threat behind bars. but that was 25 years ago. shelley shannon is not behind bars anymore. right now she is out. shelley shannon was let out of prison last year on supervised release. the assistant u.s. attorney who prosecuted her case said, quote, she is completely unrehabilitated. she has the same mentality and goals that she had when he was convicted. abortion providers across the country expressed alarm when shannon was let out of prison. not just because she herself could cause more violence, but because she could inspire it too.
so carl keeps a picture of shelley shannon on the wall next to his desk. her head shot hangs behind reception so everyone on staff knows exactly what she looks like too. because who knows if she might decide to come back. dr. tiller, of course, will not be there if there is a next time. but the clinic is still a clarion symbol for the aggressive radical anti-abortion movement that has targeted his clinic. and the reason that clinic has remained a symbol, the reason that clinic is still there at all, still serving kansas women is julie burkhart. julie is not just the face of abortion services in wichita after that famous doctor was killed. she's the reason abortion services exist in wichita at all. >> the summer of 1991, the summer of mercy was a defining moment in my life. the second real defining moment in my life was after my boss' murder.
i didn't know if we would succeed in reopening the clinic here. and yes, a lot of people thought that i would fail. >> were it not for julie burkhart, a man with a gun could have shut down abortion access in wichita for good. >> it felt like pushing this gigantic boulder up a very steep mountainside. that's what it felt like. and i would come home every night and say, well, come hell or high water, come hell or high water. that because my mantra after a while. it was just -- i just couldn't give up. >> do you feel like julie is in the kind of danger that dr. tiller was? >> yes, to a -- it's littler, but, yes, i do. >> the threats started before julie even got the clinic
reopened. once the news got out that abortion was coming back to wichita, that julie was bringing it back, she started getting stalked. a flyer with her photo and home address calling her a mass murderer, encouraging people to go to her house. that was distributed in her neighborhood. anti-abortion activists posted an audiotape online of the man who murdered dr. tiller, but this time he was threatening julie by name. >> it is a little bit death-defying, you know, for someone to walk back in there. you know, i think that woman's name is julie burkhardt. it's almost like putting a target on your back, saying, well, let's see if you can shoot me. >> eventually julie says she was getting death threats not just from behind bars, but from her front lawn. >> when the protesters came into my neighborhood, they were handing out these wanted-style posters.
and they asked people to bring me to eternal life. and i take that very seriously that, you know, the way we get to eternal life is through death. >> at one point this was the view from inside julie's house. prepare to meet thy god. where is your church? that veiled threat was not lost on julie, that someone might come shoot her at church, just like dr. tiller. julie asked a court for a protective order against the pastor who she said was targeting her at work and at home. the pastor then turned around and sued julie for a bunch of different things. for defamation, for abuse of process, for malicious prosecution. a piece of that legal fight spun on for years. the trial didn't wrap up until october of this year. julie's lawyer told the jury, quote, violence toward abortion providers isn't speculative. it is an abstract. it isn't abstract. this is real.
and the jury agreed. julie won. not a surprise to julie. she was confident that she would win. but sitting in court listening to the trial, she couldn't stop herself from thinking about the time her old boss, dr. george tiller, was in a similar spot when he, too, got hauled into court, when he, too, had to defend himself in court from charges that wouldn't have existed if not for a relentless campaign by anti-abortion activists bent on stopping him from doing his job. and how one guy would stop him from that spectacle. >> he was my only target. >> and would get so furious wynn the law came down on tiller's side that he would murder him for it. >> do you worry that someone in that courtroom will be the next scott roeder? >> absolutely. yes. >> that's a lot to carry around. >> that's why i -- as much as i wanted to win -- sorry --
sometimes i thought losing might be better. >> julie burkhardt told us she has tightened security at her home, that she is cautious, but she told us her work is what she loves to do. she told us this, specifically. she says, quote, i don't think any of us should be bullied out of what we do or what we love to do. we'll be right back. before nexium 24hr mark could only imagine... a peaceful night sleep without frequent heartburn waking him up. now that dream is a reality. nexium 24hr stops acid before it starts for all-day, all-night protection. can you imagine 24 hours without heartburn? so w>>i'm searching for info on options trading, and look, it feels like i'm just wasting time. wasted time is wasted opportunity. >>exactly. that's why td ameritrade designed a first-of-its-kind, personalized education center. see, you just >>oh, this is easy. yeah, and that's >>oh, just what i need. courses on options trading, webcasts, tutorials.
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wrote the supreme court decision that gave women in all 50 states access to legal abortion, he knew it was a landmark ruling. but even though he was writing for a seven-member majority on that court, he knew it might not stand forever. >> do you think that roe v. wade stands the chance of being overturned? >> i think any case up here always stands a chance of being overturned. i can't forecast that one way or another. it may well be overruled. that will depend primarily on
the personnel of the court. >> it will depend on the personnel of the court. you might have noticed there's been some turnover in the personnel of the court lately with donald trump's two picks, neil gorsuch and brett kavanaugh there is now a conservative majority on the court. because of that, there is a post-roe world, thinking and talking amongst themselves about which states might be the first to ban abortion, and how they might develop ways to get women from those states to what they call haven states where abortion will remain legal. if roe were overturned by the court tom, these are the states that have laws already in place so that they could ban abortion right away. so if roe gets overturned at the court, legal abortion killed be gone in all these states basically immediately. that suddenly seems possible. it probably will not happen in
the next year, but here's what could happen next year. if the supreme court lets that louisiana t.r.a.p. law stand, the one that's basically identical to the t.r.a.p. law the court threw out in 2016, the one that closed all those clinics in texas, if the new conservative majority in the supreme court lets the louisiana law stand, here are the places where that kind of law would likely shut down the last clinic in the state. that's a reality we could be living next year. again, the court is set to hear the louisiana case next year and rule by june. and that's what julie burkhardt is planning for right now. the mission of the foundation that julie created in dr. tiller's honor in the clinic is trust women. that's something dr. tiller used to always say. it's how he became an abortion provider himself. the mission of trust women which hangs all the walls in both
clinics is, quote, trust women opens clinics that provide abortion care in underserved communities so that all women can make their own decision about their health care. there are more underserved communities julie the anti-abor activists, but she's also planning her next move. that's all for us tonight. thanks for being with us. good evening, there is new pressure tonight on utah's republican senator mitt romney from two newspapers, the editorial in the "salt lake tribune" saying senator romney must demand that the senate trial of donald trump include witnesses and a report in "the new york times" shows exactly who those witnesses should be, including the three men who stood around the desk in a dramatic scene in the oval office, urging donald trump to stop blocking military aid to ukraine. it's a big "new york times" night here at "the last word."